Tanzania’s two-year anti-poaching program has registered mixed results with a spike of a quick increase in wildlife populations in protected parks and game reserves causing rise of human-wildlife conflict.
Counted as a blessing by trustees, conservators and patrons of wildlife and wild creatures conservation and protection, the increasing number of wild animals in their natural habitats had so far, created fear in local communities living in this part of Africa.
Movements of wild animals are now a common scenario in some parts of Tanzania after a successful anti-poaching operation that had seen wildlife poachers getting tough penalties through Tanzanian legal courts.
Local communities living near wildlife habitats have expressed fears to see natural foes, the wild animals, roaming in their habitats. Those communities have voiced their concerns through the Tanzanian parliament and the media, seeking a protection from invasions of wild, fierce animals.
Elephants, buffaloes, hippos, crocodiles, hyenas and leopards have been reported to invade human settlements in Tanzania, scaring children from going to schools and peasants from tending their farms.
Baboons were reported to decimate crops in farms located near forest areas.
Launched about two years ago to save the wild animals from notorious poachers, the paramilitary operations which applies military strategies and high-tech to fight poachers, have seen a quick increase of wildlife of all species in Tanzania.
Tanzania was among African states, where rampant poaching of wild animals has been a big problem, raising an international alarm to the government of Tanzania to end such a calamity in conservation.
Before the launching of paramilitary operations, Tanzania was rated among Africa’s leading “Elephant Slaughterhouses”. Killing of elephants and other animal species scared survived ones into hiding deeper in forests and the protected parks to save their lives from poachers.
In a recent, sequence of incidents few weeks ago, a zebra left its natural habitat in Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania to visit a village near this famous African park, with no fear to humans.
Elephants, hippos and other browsers have been spotted roaming in human habitats searching for food, while other species searching for passages or corridors to other parks.
Authorities are now grappling with how to keep wild animals from destroying crops and invading human settlements adjacent to wildlife habitats, especially near the Serengeti National Park, and in Manyara and Katavi regions in northern Tanzania.
The Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Constantine Kanyasu said that the Tanzanian government is looking to establish a special unit to address the problem.
“It is common to encounter a herd of elephants roaming in human habits in parts of this country, and some hippos, lions, crocodiles and leopards are a common sight,” Kanyasu told eTN.
Cases of elephant and crocodile attacks on people have been on the increase and communities living near Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania especially face frequent invasions by elephants. In Manyara and Katavi areas, the menace is from hippo and crocodile invasions.
“You can encounter a herd of 500 elephants roaming within local communities. It is no wonder these days. These wild animals are increasing in numbers with no fear of humans now because they are protected from poachers”, he added to eTN.
Through specialized conservation methods, the Tanzania government is now looking for plans to control the marauding wild animals causing fear to people and destruction of crops.
Kanyasu said that the Ministry of Natural Resources is now looking for interested hunters to hunt hippos and crocodiles to reduce their numbers in some areas of Tanzania where these animals have being posing threat to people.
Under its plan to cull crocodiles and hippos, the Ministry of Natural Resources is now drafting a regulation that would guide wildlife conservation officers to authorize the sale by auction the specified animals.
He said that his ministry is looking to auction then hunt and kill 10 percent of all crocodiles and an unspecified number of hippos across Tanzania.
He said the government plans to remove hippos near residential areas to reduce wildlife and human conflicts which are now on rise across Tanzania due to increase of those animals found in dams, rivers and lakes where people carry out subsistence business.
There have been reported cases of hippo and crocodile attacks to people in areas neighboring dams, lakes and rivers across Tanzania, with several killings of people near bodies of water.
Kanyasu told eTN that the exercise to kill hippos and crocodiles is being implemented this month (September). Special regulation has been drafted to guide interested hunters with hunting quotas to kill all hippos near human habitats and 10 percent of crocodiles in those areas.
“We are planning to reduce their numbers in areas where they pose danger to local communities. Wildlife managers will be deployed to supervise the exercise to ensure that no poachers will penetrate to kill the animals without proper permits”, he said.
Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) estimates that there are more than 20,000 hippos known to exist in Tanzania’s fresh waters, though the number could be more than double, taking into account to those living deeper in great lakes and rivers across Tanzania inaccessible to researchers.
The Minister said that auctioning the hippos and crocodiles is aimed at reducing the human-wildlife conflict, also raising revenues for conservation of wildlife.
Africa’s Great Lakes of Tanganyika, Victoria and Nyasa, all bordering Tanzania, are known to be infested with big numbers of hippos and crocodiles, apart from those living in inland rivers of Rufiji, Mara, Kagera, Ruvuma, Ruvu and Wami rivers.
Several hippos and crocodiles are found living in inland lakes, man made dams fro hydropower generation and for crop irrigation.
“We have been receiving reports of wildlife attacks on people nearly every day. It is hard and expensive to control the wildlife near human settlement”, Kanyasu said.
Tanzania has a licensing system which allows hunting and sale of wild animals including hippos and crocodiles. The government had suspended the export of hippo teeth in 2004 to control poaching of these large African river and lake mammals.
The government of Tanzania had in 2018 introduced paramilitary training to wildlife rangers to empower them with military strategies to combat poaching of wildlife, mostly elephants and rhinos across Tanzania.
Paramilitary training is composed of military strategic plans on protection of elephants and rhinos, also other wildlife species living in protected area and those roaming freely outside wildlife parks. Elephant populations in Tanzania are estimated to more than 60,000 living in protected parks.
A report published by the National Geographic in 2016 had indicated poaching cartels operating in Tanzania and other parts in Africa trading on hippos teeth which are curved into ornaments, fetching millions of US dollars in Asia.
Records from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) show that between 2004 and 2014 Hong Kong was reported to import almost 60 tons of hippo teeth from Africa for commercial purpose.
Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi have been recorded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as major sources of hippo teeth in the African continent.
The IUCN estimated the number of hippos in Africa ranging between 125,000 and 148,000 heads, while thousands have been legally and illegally killed for the domestic and international trade.